Thank God It's Friday

2nd June 1995 at 01:00
Monday: The five-hour daily slog in and out of London Bridge station is beginning to lose its magic. I thought it might. How do people do it, year after year, with no prospect of change until retirement? The other regulars on the 6.47am from Charlbury look bored stiff, so I suppose I do too.

I try to work, but even on the High Speed Trains the table wobbles about so much that my handwriting looks much worse than normal. ("Is that possible?" asks Rita, my secretary.) The two coolest things to have in First Class are a laptop and a mobile phone. Mobile phones are a new form of pollution. It's not as if the conversations are vital or even vaguely interesting. "Hi, it's me. I'm on the early one, " is par for the course. The most intriguing call was by a chap who said something along the lines of, "Yes, I've done the deal. He bought the lot. Let's get the champagne out and have a nice evening in!" Tuesday: The mornings and evenings are lighter, allowing me to gaze at the Oxfordshire scenery as it whizzes by. Sometimes it limps by. I have enjoyed watching the bridge-widening project just beyond Didcot station, looking at all the cars stuck in the jam every morning.

I didn't expect to see one of my Year 10 pupils working on the construction site during term time. I wonder if he will ever work out who shopped him for truancy?

The trains have been running on timeIuntil this evening. I know something is wrong when I find a packed concourse at Paddington. Somebody has drilled through a power line and managed to switch off the signalling system for the area. The wonderful announcer (it's worth a trip to London just to hear her) advises us all to cross London to take a slow train to Reading via Windsor.

Eschewing the chance of a glimpse of the Queen, the wise masses hold firm in the hope that a direct train to Oxford will turn up. Eventually one does, and, with a passable imitation of Japanese commuters, we fall out at Oxford four hours late.

Wednesday: Liverpool Street station looks more like a shopping mall these days. British Rail worked out that the great volume of space above its platforms is no longer needed, now that the age of steam has gone, so it has been filled in with a mezzanine floor and lots of little shops to tempt the weary traveller.

I toy with the idea of using the space under the ceiling of the school hall for the same purpose. I'm sure that the staff will be expecting me to come back from industry inspired by lots of madcap ideas, and that one seems to fit the bill nicely.

Thursday: As a naive Northerner living in the sticks, I thought I'd see lots of famous people wandering about in London, but where are the stars, I ask? So far I've recognised a heart attack victim from Casualty and the actor who played the grumpy ex-manager in The Manageress, both on the concourse at Waterloo.

But today I sit opposite Monty Don on the way back to the Cotswolds. He does those quick reports on visits to exotic places in the Holiday programme. I reflect that the recognition of this particular media person shows that I have been able to watch some early evening TV this year. We get to Slough, and Monty whips out his mobile phone and talks about the deals he's been working on.

"They" appear to be "really excited" about the "sensual suggestion". I pretend to be asleep, but boredom goes out of the air-conditioning vent as Monty outlines his new programme. Perhaps paying minor celebs to discuss their secrets in trains on a regular basis is something the new train operating companies could do to take our minds off delays.

Friday: An enjoyable day spent trundling up and down from Orpington to London Victoria in the driving cab of a Networker unit, observing drivers being "converted" in their driving skills from the older slam-door stock. After a brief spell of euphoria, I begin to see just how boring and monotonous the job of a train driver can be. Some of the responsibility is reduced by warning devices and other aids that the driver has and, of course, the signalman actually steers the trains.

Keeping your concentration is the key I decide - as my mind wanders off yet again as we approach Victoria. Would we ever have a London Elizabeth station? Imagine, too, the day when the 8.05 from Orpington via Tunbridge Wells pulls into Camilla?

Phil Bloomfield is head of Fitzharrys School, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, currently on an annual secondment to Network South Eastern

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